Preserves a soulful, safe place for all
Thursday, July 05, 2007
And for the most part, that's what happens. Millions of people leave the protection of their homes and businesses to enjoy the freedom of a nearby preserves.
Sure, we read from time to time the discovery of a body left there from a crime committed elsewhere. But given the amount of people who use woods, crime there isn't that prevalent and usually non-violent. Part of the shock of the recent murder of Mount Prospect resident Wayne Vaessen in Camp Pine Woods was its uncommon location. People don't just get murdered walking in the forest in broad daylight.
One of the reasons they don't, undoubtedly, is the presence of the forest preserve police. We shouldn't get the impression that the police are there to patrol a war zone. As writer John Huston states in his article on the force, only a small proportion of Forest Preserve police's attention is required to combat violent crime that makes up only 1 percent of all incidents.
In the meantime, the police are helping make our preserves safer, as overall crime reports have diminished in the last decade. We owe them our thanks, and our politeness, too, when they tell us we have to leave at dusk.
Cook County government receives its fair share of scorn, most of deserved, for its cronyism and penchant for wastefull spending. But they also deserve praise when they get thing right and, by and large, they get things right in the forest preserves. We will long be the beneficiaries of the natural area preservation that the Cook County Board has championed.
Because of them, large tracts of nearly undeveloped land in our area -- Busse Woods, the Des Plaines and North Branch riverbanks, the Poplar Creek preserve -- were wisely set aside long ago for public enjoyment. This despite the obvious value this land would have for developers and municipalities alike.
The upkeep of the preserves' natural areas has not always been what it should. Volunteer groups such as the North Branch Restoration Project do a good job of stemming the invasion of non-native plants such as buckthorn, but we agree with Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin that the government itself needs to do more, too.
But with Chicago in the midst of "high summer," remember to take a walk or a bike trip in the woods. There's hardly a safer place to spend the day.